Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Story of Elthos

Another step forward was taken in my agreement with Jarod this weekend. He will be picking up on taking the story from the game test this summer and turning it into a children's book. I'm very much looking foward to working with him. I've known Jarod since 2006 when we co-created the Literary Role Playing Game Society of Westchester and he's been both a help and an inspiration since then. The Yahoo site has posted as of today 1996 message, and we have a host of materials in the Files, Photos and Database sections.
Jarod is extremely talented. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he will come up with for the "Revenge of the Weasel King". We've already discussed that for simplicity sake we're going to take some liberties with the story line as I originally wrote it, which was a story-form of Gamesmaster's notes really. While it is very story-like, it isn't exactly a children's book the way it's written. It follows exactly what the characters said and did during the game, and for that reason it really doesn't conform to standard story structure. For example, in The Revenge the story takes place about a month after the "War of the Mice and the Weasels" which was created by the 12 kids I ran the Elthos RPG Game Club with in 2004. That's a great story in it's own right. But this summer we played the sequel. So there's a certain amount of backstory material that is not evident in The Revenge of the Weasel King, but pops up intermittently. So what we're going to do is reshape the material so that it makes a better book. The purpose of the book is to demonstrate what the Elthos World is like, and to show off one of the adventures so that other Gamesmasters can have a good idea of where I am going with it. The other purpose is to produce a children's story that will be fun in it's own right. I think Jarod will do an amazing job, based on the previous writing I've seen of his, and on the initial edit he did. This is very exciting!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Stay on Target ... Stay on Target...

I am steadily working toward my goal of publishing the Elthos ODS Web Application and ODS Rules book online by January. It is a lot of work, but I'm making progress and think I should be able to do it. The publication of the Web Application will include all of the Phase I features I have in mind, and even a few of the Phase II, such as, if all goes well, Object Sharing between Worlds. That is a bit of code that I am going to implement this weekend. If that goes well then I will probably publish the site without the payment system, and then add that the next week. So progress is being made in the programming department. On the other side of the shop the creative team is tooling away mightily. The Tarot Cards are coming along fantastically. And I have a very good Editor / Creative Writing Expert who is helping me to craft the first Elthos RPG Novelette. That's exciting. I hope to have that illustrated as a children's story as well. So all in all things are coming along. Slowly, but surely.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Inching Closer to Production

Well, it's taking a long time, but I'm definitely making steady progress. It's pretty exciting for me. I started out in 1978 with a rules system which was loosely based on the first three RPG rule books and from there GM'd my little heart out for three decades. Along the way I became a programmer in order to program my little system into something useful for me as a GM. Now, after one major rules simplification (MAJOR SIMPLIFICATION), I am almost ready to host the application online ... after 10 years of programming effort (well, most of the 10 was spent working on a prior version of my Rules system into a vb6 application, but that's been put on the shelf for the time being). All in all, I'm quite pleased! Soon... soon... soon it will be online... and then ... I can actually USE the darn thing finally! :)

Anyway, Summer 2008 play testing as pretty much concluded. We wound up with an 8 Chapter story named "The Revenge of the Weasel King". As is common in RPG stories there are a number of loose threads left remaining which can be picked up later to create another book. So for now there are two books. "The War of the Mice and the Weasels" and "The Revenge of the Weasel King". The Tarot deck is also coming along very nicely!

Once I get the application online then I can start using it in earnest to fill in the Elthos World and that will be the next leg of the journey. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 10, 2008

ODS Application Testing

Well, today was a very good test of the Elthos ODS Web Application with Jon. We pretty much went over it soup to nuts, with the exception of the character generation screens (due to a glitch, which I fixed tonight). Overall the feedback was excellent. I found out that clarification is required in a number of screens to make the site more understandable at a first glance by a new user. That's very important feedback. Jon, kindly soul that he is, was very complimentary towards the application as a whole, and is excited to start using it live, when I get it online, which won't be long from now. The biggest issues have to do with the initial logon and registration. I really need to think through how that should work. Some re-coding will be required but I'm not all that worried about it. All in all I'm very pleased with the progress.
Additionally, some absolutely great work is being done with the Elthos Tarot Deck, an example card being shown above. I'm tickled pink!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Dragonfly Warrior

This is a picture of one of the dragonfly warriors that captured Weeleena from the Hogsworth barn at the beginning of the War of the Mice and Weasels...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Website Advancement

This weekend I spent (in between preparing for Aikido Test on Sunday) working on the website. First, I had to find a new home for the Elthos Domain, which I settled on parking at Then I needed an ASP / SQL host site and settled on EDTHosting. Not too bad. Then, I wanted to change some stuff on the website itself. It *was* all html before, but now I've converted everypage over to Microsoft ASP.Net (2.0) so that I can use the MasterPages, which makes handling the look and feel of the whole website much easier. It took about four hours or so to do so. I then went through and spruced things up a bit to give it all a nicer look. I think it's come out quite nicely. Here's the link: Elthos Website

Friday, August 15, 2008

And yet more Elthos Creatures

Krangor the Fighter practicing

Morad the Eagle by a window

Krangor practicing Warding

Brukus the Ogre Guarding a Dungeon Doorway
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More Elthos Creatures

Thralik the Ogre Guarding a Doorway

Rilkrok the Goblin on Guard duty

Lt. Deputy Pijoan Guarding a Doorway

Hrargar the Ogre at the cave entrance
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Elthos Creatures

These are a few sketches of goblins, an Ogre and a mystical Snakeman from the Elthos World.

Tenik the Goblin guarding a doorway

Drellik and Kriknit, two Goblins, guarding a doorway

Horak the Ogre guarding a doorway

Thane Val Hakor III, Mystic Snakeman
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Friday, August 01, 2008

Elthos ODS Rules - Finalized

As of today the Elthos ODS ("One Die System") Rules have been finalized, finally. That was a lot of work, I must say, for such a short set of rules! I started the ODS in February of 2006 in coordination with the Literary Role Playing Game Society of Westchester. Since we hold our meetings at a local pub I wanted a light weight system that would not require a lot of rules books and paraphernalia, and one where the math would be simple enough to do in our heads. Since the LRPGSW is focused on story-creation it seemed like it would be a good fit for our group so I got to work. After about a month I had the core system. The rest of the time has been spent analyzing, polishing, and researching, as well as building the super-deluxe Elthos ODS Web Application, which has another six months or more of polishing before it will be ready for production. But the Rules Book is complete and that's a very satisfying milestone for the project.

Yay! :)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Analysis Mr Spock?

Well, with some (substantial) rework and coercing I now have what I consider to be a premium quality excel analysis of my combat system. It compares two equiped fighters and/or mystics (spell chanters, or clerics), and shows the average number of melees it would take, on average, for one to defeat the other. I'm using this to calibrate the variables that make up the Elthos Rules configuration. These include such things as 'Sheild Damage Absorption', 'Starting Life and Mystic Points Bonuses', and so on. Modifying these variables effects the total results of the system which I can now review with mathematical percision. Using this I have now been able to fine tune the system so that two average (requisites) 1st Level Fighters with Leather and Shield, using Medium sized weapons (normal swords), take approximately 6 melees on average to do each other in. The same two fighters at 2nd level take 8 melees, and so on. I can swap out weapons and armors and change requisites in the combat analyzer and see the effects across levels as well. My next goal is to automate the comparisons so that I can then compare two groups of opponents and get the average melees for one group to defeat the other. That should not take long to build. That piece, however, will be part of the Web Application and should prove useful to me as the GM when I want to build scenarios and ensure that the difficulty levels are not out of alignment with the skill level of the adventure groups entering the adventure. Yay!

This is now starting to get past the drudgery part, and into the FUN part! Superior! :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Grand Analysis

I asked Evan Jones and David Kahn to conduct an analysis of the ODS system. They did so and provided me with materials that I am using to apply a thorough investigation of the ODS mathematical model.

Right now I am going over the materials to make sure that I have fully verified the accuracy of the formulas so that I can review the recommendations. It is a slow and difficult process, but well worth the effort.

My preliminary investigation appears to reveal that the ODS system is exactly what I expected, only moreso: Stark. Since the numbers are small (Attack Levels and Armor Classes for example being only 1 through 6) it is the case that the effect of small differences in the numbers produces large variations in the results.

For example, two average fighters who are one level apart show a significant difference in percent chance of success against one another. If the calculations are correct, which is still in question at the moment, then it appears that the 1st Level Fighter can expect to defeat the 2nd Level fighter in 24 Melees, while the second Level Fighter can expect to defeat the 1st Level Fighter in only 6 Melees. Thus, the chance of victory for the 2nd Level Fighter is significantly greater than the 1st. Is this difference adequate? Does it work so far as the game is concerned, from a playability perspective? This remains to be seen. I am running a wide variety of scenarios, comparing differences in levels, weapons, armor, flanking, classes and range attacks including magic and missile weapons. It's quite a lot of work, but I plan to automate the process so that once I have the root formulas it should not be too difficult after that. But of course deriving the formulas *is* the difficult part.

In any case I am quite pleased with the work and am continuing to make progress. However, in light of my findings I must reconsider the August deadline for the final first draft of the ODS Rules Book. Given the difficulties I've had in validating the formulas so far, I'm not sure that August 1st can be achieved. However, nevertheless I will try.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Slogging & Bobbing Along

Well things are making progress steadily with the Elthos Project. I'm also, as it happens, taking Aikido and Wudan Boxing six days a week (most weeks). So that's going great too. I'm really loving it. As I learn more about the very esoteric yet superb and powerful martial arts of the body-mind, I'm slowly adding elements to the game from the fonts of ancient and modern Asian wisdom.

The ODS Rules are being Analyzed by my old friend, and game designer comrade-in-arms, Evan Jones. So that's extremely cool. Evan is a consumate analyst and game designer and player. Getting a review and analysis from him is just about as good as your going to get. And to my even greater good fortune he is being project managed by none other than David Kahn himself. And that, as it happens, is both fortunate, and probably quite necessary, as without David it is possible, and even not improbable, that I would be otherwise unable to get Evan to give me what I actually am asking for. David is good that way. And so between them I've recieved some very good feedback and advice. Right now Evan is working on some analysis concepts which we will add as excel sheets to the website.

That's another thing I want to do with Elthos, is provide some really cool analyses of the system and how it works. It should be really interesting overall when you step back and look at the totality of the project. It's definitely big. I would say that most people can not see it at once, but only one level or realm at a time. It really is a large project, actually, even though I started with the smallest most discretely finite piece, the "One Die System" Core Rules Book as a PDF. But the PDF is sitting on top of a veritable mountain of material, concepts and systems that I've developed over the past three decades.

There is, for example, the web application that supports the rules. There is also a much more complex version of the rules. And another client computer application that supports the larger rules. That program is much more sophisticated in ways than the ODS Web Application. It comes later.

Then there is the Cosmology System of the World Weaver's Guide. That's big even by it's lonesome.

And so on. There's a lot to it, but then again there should be by now. I've been chipping at this here stone for about 30 years and accumulating as I go. Which is, as things begin to come together, pretty great to step back and take note of.

So that's how things are going. Not bad. I am working toward having the ODS Rules ready for release hopefully by mid summer. If all goes well I should then be able to finish the application and hopefully have that ready for release by the winter.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Big Apple Con - Success

The Big Apple Con was a lot of fun! I had two players, Phil and Miguel, and it seemed that they enjoyed the game. I know I did. The feedback about the Elthos Setting and the ODS Rules were both positive. It was a fast paced and exciting game. Here's the synopsis:

I created a group of six characters who are members of the Adventurer's Guild and already an Adventure Group named the Oakenwode Brigade. These are the Characters (all human):

Eric Redford, Male Paladin
Allen Galloway, Male Outlaw (Thief-Fighter)
Carmen Whitestone, Male Fighter
Delilah Galloway, Female Witch (Fighter-SpellChanter)
Ellen McFearson, Female Warrior-Mage (Fighter-SpellChanter-Cleric)
Bernard Oakenwode, Male Fighter

Notice the evocative names. That was enough for background, actually as the players used the names to fill in the blanks for themselves. Background was discussed but only in reference to the town, and that was brief: A tiny pioneer farming village named Lentilsville on the edge of the wilderness. They've been having mysterious troubles with strange creatures doing odd things lately, and so an outpost of the Adventurer's Guild was formed and one group initiated - the Oakenwode Brigade. I let them pick the characters they wanted to play, and so the split the party into two groups of three (I had two players).

Their first mission: To help farmer Jones protect his "unblemished" Black Ox from an old hag who came to buy it for a bag of sticks, stones and crushed up leaves (it was in fact a fair deal as the bag's contents were all magical, but Jones didn't know that). As she left the old woman cursed him and marked (black crescent moon on the left horn) his Black Ox, and this worried him. So he went to his nephew (sister's son), the young Paladin Eric, and asked if he and his group would guard the Ox for a week. They agreed and we launched off into the adventure.

The adventure entailed three parts:

1. 3 kobolds came to steal the Ox at midnight, and used a shrinking spell to vanish into the grass with it. Amber, an NPC, who happened to hear the commotion and knew what happened, came to their aid and agreed to shrink the party down to ant-size so they could track the kobolds with the Ox. They followed them through the grass forest to an Ant-Hill and had a battle there where they killed one kobold, let one escape, and captured the one with the Ox. They returned to normal size with the Ox and their Captive and went to farmer Jones. 1 hour.

2. They interrogated the kobold captive and made him spill his guts on the location of the witch. He agreed (with little choice) to take them to the hut, but could not remember the way at his current size as he had few landmarks he could recognize. However he could only shrink one person. The party chose Ellen. She was shrunk with the kobold down to ant-size and they took a tiny leaf-boat down stream to a rock. They climbed a tiny stairway to the top where they found a moss maze with hovering mosquitoes, worms, and pill bugs. They came to a pillar-stem on which was created a spiral stairway going up to the top of a dandelion where they took one seed puff each and parachuted the rest of the way across the stream to the other shore. There they found a group of dragonflies tethered to a rock by spider web ropes and rode them into the forest for a far distance till they came to the witches hut. Ellen reconned a bit and then decided to head back to her friends to report. She erred in growing to her full size at that point instead of flying back via the dragonfly to the stream, and accidentally alerted the dog who started barking and woke the witch. Ellen, who has a flying spell, cast the spell and flew away, but the witch persuaded on her broom, and was a tad bit faster (being a two levels above Ellen). Ellen was captured by being polymorphed mid-flight (witch has a wand of polymorph) into a small white mouse, just before she was able to make it across the sream to he waiting friends on the other shore. The witch, with Ellen-Mouse in
hand, went her friends and engaged in a negotiation with them for the Ox. 1 hour.

3. The witch agreed to give them Ellen in exchange for the Ox, if the witch would agree to replace the Black Ox with another one of equal value to Farmer Jones. The witch agreed and with a wicked cackle flew away with Ellen back to her hut, the whereabouts of which the party still did not know. Amber again helped them by following the spoor of the witch's flight and gave them magic ointment of silent walking for their shoes. They went to rescue Ellen, and arrived at the hut. Two went in, three remained outside. Inside they tried to pilfer Ellen-Mouse from the sleeping witch's bony hands, but fumbled and woke the witch who put them into a Sleep. Meanwhile outside the party distracted the dog, who attacked them after eating a magical bone from his collar-pouch which polymorphed him into a savage dog-beast with steel teeth and leather fur. They managed to defeat the dog, and rushed the house, ran up the stairs to the bedroom in the nick of time, and in a blaze of good luck scored a critical hit on the witch with maximum damage and chopped her head off just before the witch's black cat could pounce on Ellen-Mouse. All the spells were broken and the party rescued Ellen and saved the day. Farmer Jones was well pleased and Amber received a magical mirror that the party took from
the hut for her. 1 hour.

And so concluded the first adventure of the Oakenwode Brigade!

Note: At several points in the adventure I improvised, and made
extensive use of the Spiral Method.

Overall, I give the experience an A++!

I would definitely do it again. Best sign that the ODS is working: My brain did *Not* feel like mush after the game (which it usually would due to excessive numbers crunching).


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

GMing in NYC

Ok well further hints of progress are afoot. I will be GMing at the Big Apple Con in New York City on June 8th. That should be fun. I think I will run a small side adventure off of the Hamfest Campaign related to the Revenge of the Weasel King. I'm drumming up the details of that, with the assistance of my soon-to-be-trustier Elthos ODS software. Yay!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Elthos Alignment

In response to this thread on theRPGSite:

John Morrow: I think that's a failure to use the alignment system properly, not a failure of the alignment system, itself. I also think a lot of NPCs get tagged as being Evil when they are relatively benign. We have a joke quote in my group, based on a misstatement by one of the people I used to role-play with, "Evil and benign" spoken in a sinister voice (the person meant to say, "Evil and malign"). If your Evil is benign, harmless, and would make a good neighbor, then it's not really Evil in my opinion. Put another way, I think people have a failure of imagination when it comes to making really good or really evil PCs and tend to make them all pragmatic and thus, in my opinion, Neutral. I'm not sure if that's a side effect of moral relativism and the idea that we can understand all human behavior in pragmatic terms or an inability to imagine selfless Good and truly cruel and vicious Evil.

Yup. I agree.

I've always found Alignment to be a fascinating concept, and have used it extensively in my game for years, having modified the rules to fit my homebrew system. So I don't run a standard D&D alignment system, but I have one I cooked up that works for me.

The basics are as follows:

1. Players can state whatever they want about their Characters intended Alignment, and the Character at start is officially that. However, Alignment shifts according to the actions of the Character over time. If the Character behaves evilly, then that Character's alignment will migrate to Evil.

2. The alignment works according to the standard vectors of Good vs Evil, Law vs. Chaos which forms a matrix on which the character's alignment is plotted with X Axis being Good-Evil, and the Y Axis being Law-Chaos. A Lawful-Good Character would be (+2,+2). A Chaotic Good Character would be (+2, -2). So obviously there Character can be charted according to the degree to which he is a given Alignment. Everything within a specified distance of zero is considered Neutral. This allows me to have both, an Absolutist system, and a Relativistic System at the same time. Absolutes get measured from (0,0), while Relatives get measured in context to one another.

3. My world assumes a Moral Absolute exists. I as Gamesmaster assign an alignment evaluation in points to various actions of the Character which may have moral implications. I do so according to two attributes, Moral, and Legal. The Moral relates to the Good-Evil Axis, while the Legal relates to the Law-Chaos axis. The Moral attribute is assigned according to the motive of the action, of which I ask the Player to tell me what the Character's motive is. The Legal attribute is assigned according to a list of actions which have a Law-Chaos value assigned to them. So Building a Town is Lawful (+5). If the motive is "In order to control people so my Character can use them for vile disgusting experiments" then the Moral is Evil (-5). So the Character's alignment would shift (-5, +5) from what is was, and be tagged with a date of change and the event that caused it. This way I can track the Character's alignment over time. Sounds complicated, and it is, but I created a computer program to help me with this.

4. The tendency of this system, unless the player is reasonably careful and consistent, is to drive characters towards neutral alignments (which is what most people turn out to be). Only the dedicated and careful get to any extreme.

5. When approaching extremes of Alignment the world's Deities begin to take notice, causing them to become either for or against the Character. The entire system of Deities is aligned to the Alignment System and there is a Deity representing each Alignment. So the Lawful Good Character who becomes noticed will make an enemy of the Deity (and minions of) of the Chaotic Evil Realm. The Character in fact makes himself their enemy. He also becomes an ally of the Lawful Good. This helps me to determine during the course of the game which factions align with which Characters. I find it useful from a story coherency perspective.

6. I never tell Players what Alignment their Character must or should be.

That's the basis of my Alignment system for the Elthos World. There are some additional rules in the background that enhance the coherency of the system which I intend to publish eventually with my Elthos World Weaver's Guide, but whether or not I manage to get that far reamains to be seen.

I've always been a fan of Alignment and wanted to make a system that would allow the concept to work for me in my world. So far it's worked out well and my players have always given me positive feedback on it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Tarot Deck

Things are going along very well lately. The tarot deck is coming together, and I have even thought of a couple of new ways of using it to build back story for my world. The artist who I hired to work on the cards is really great. He's easy to work with and does really fabulous looking stuff. His name is Jason Moser. So we have the first six cards finished after approximately two months of effort. On to the next six! :D

The cards will have a series of correspondences on each one, though some of the correspondences will be variable depending on the element of the card. Here's the current list:

Elthos name of the Archetype
Roman & Greek names of the Archetype
Element (air, earth, water, fire) by color and symbol
Planet & Constellation relationship glyphs on Zodiac Wheel
Various glyphs

There's quite a few other correspondences which I'll be adding to the booklet that will form the basis of the Elthos RPG World Weaver's Guide. So things are coming along... slowly, but surely.

I've also gotten some good and helpful feedback lately from the people on theRPGSite in regards to the Elthos ODS Core Rules book, the Introduction in particular. Hopefully I can publish that piece soon!


Friday, February 29, 2008

Narratives in Video Games

Regarding this Panel Discussion on Narratives in Video Games

Selling a lot of games is the key to their sense of success. "It is empowering. It makes you honest about what you're making." My sense, at least for Bio-Shock, is that what makes people gravitate toward it is the hellish blackness of the concept, along with the gritty horror of the artwork. It is telling that the creator of the Bio-Shock story in reminiscing about his original story line calls it "fucking insane".

To me it raises the question: If the motive is to sell games, then at what point are you selling out your artistic integrity for the sake of sales?

Perhaps that sounds like a cynical question, but then again, I note, perhaps irrelevantly, that the stage was black, the chairs were black cloth directors chairs, and all of the speakers were dressed in black. Why? Because black sells games? But why is that? Because kids want and will buy blackness? But why? Because they hate the world as it is and they want it destroyed? But why? Was it always like this? I think that more and more this has become a vicious spiral downward where the best selling video games sell *because* they are dark, and they add to the darkness by projecting an even worse, more horrible future (Bio-Shock) to be hated.

What was not asked at this conference is this question: What is it about your narratives that sell your games?

I think they are selling because kids feel angst and frustration and hate for the world as it is because we just see so much incredible hypocrisy and stupidity in our society, and it makes us mad, and drives people crazy and so people want to vent their rage, and a good dark killer video game with awesome graphics is an engrossing and mesmerizing way of venting. You can run around and blow away tons and tons of people, and monsters and slime things, and whatever without any consequences (other than a shriveled spirit). The games reflect that, but they also, I think, feed the cycle. Personally I'm not that impressed with the trends in gaming, and I think the artists who contribute to it don't have very much moral integrity. Why should games be held accountable to any kind of moral standard? Well for me, its because they contribute either positively or negatively to our culture. And whatever has an influence should be held accountable for that influence. Games have always had an incredibly strong influence on the development of the individual, and video games are now becoming a predominant form of gaming experience. And therefore they need to be critically assessed for impact and overall effect, and part of that critique should cover the moral dimensions of the game's Narrative.

Well, that's my take on it. I'm going to continue working towards my World setting that is not all about the death of hope, as much as that may totally uncool, and against the contemporary grain of things, and regardless of whether or not I ever sell my world to anyone at all. That's what my artistic integrity demands of me. I must go with my vision of what I believe is right.

Not that I'm saying that Bio-Shock isn't fun to play or successful, or challenging or electrifying or shocking or whatever. Or that the other games aren't the same, or different. But for me, games have a specific role to play in the evolution of the individual human psyche, and that has very much to do with role playing. All games, as they mention in the panel discussion, ultimately, are about role playing. The next step to ask is, What kind of role DO you want to play? And what kind of roles would you want the people you rely on in life to want to play? I think this is important to understand. People who want to play heroes may learn something from that experience and become more heroic in their real lives. And people who want to play destroyers may also tend in that direction in their real lives. Now you might say, well each person heads in the direction they are predisposed towards, right? But then again, isn't it possible that people are influenced also by the ideas and concepts that they encounter? Concepts which they may encounter while playing a game, even?

The next question for me is: Does the world setting of the game you're playing allow you play the kind of role you admire? Or does it instead head you off at the pass and prohibit you from role playing your dream of who you wish you could be? I find that in a lot of dark games, the answer to that is a flat, perfunctory, No. You are not allowed to be a hero because the premise of the dark nihilistic game is There are no such things as heroes. I have this impression, btw, of some people's Paper and Pencil RPG Worlds, as much as I do of some video games. But that's just my impression and that's how I've come to think of the Dark Game Genre. It started with DOOM, and has gone on a downward spiraling rampage ever since into darker, more hopeless and corrosive World settings.

One of my purposes in the LRPGSW has been to talk about how to make games Literary in quality. And by Literary I include those aspects that make classical literature uplifting and inspirational. Thus, my tag line remains "Aspire to Inspire" for that reason. However, with the world getting as dim and grim as it is, I have my doubts that I shall be able to spark even a moment's notice amid the horror stories being trotted out from every direction. Nevertheless, I frankly don't give a damn about what the Dark Lords do, and will continue as ever to shine the little rays of light here and there as I am able. And who knows if that might ever lead somewhere brighter than the world the Dark Gamers are creating? I don't know. Time will tell.

- Mark

Monday, February 11, 2008

#RPGNet IRC Conversation...

Gray Lensman
This recent conversation was interesting, and I thought it worth posting. In it we discuss Indie RPGs in terms of pros and cons, likes and dislikes. The conversation proved enlightenning to me. I thought I'd share it. In the conversation I am Z9M9Z.

[Plastik] being bored really, looking at my list of RPGs i'm thinking of getting
[Plastik] marked all indie games off of it
[Z9M9Z] I need to get one of those cool side cars for the moter bike now.
[Charmed] :)
[pip] Long list?
[Charmed] Yes you do
[Z9M9Z] btw, do you wear a cape?
[pip] Mine is pretty short at the present.
[Plastik] I have 8 games on mine
[Plastik] nm 7
[Z9M9Z] whats #1 on your list?
[pip] Down by 1 in a few seconds?
[Plastik] they are not organized by desire Z
[Plastik] pip yeah I missed an indie game
[Z9M9Z] crap! it's is waay too windy outside!
[Z9M9Z] it's starting to scare me.
[Charmed] Yeah, that's why I don't wear a cape...wind and stuff wraps me up and I can't move!
[pip] Missed?
[Z9M9Z] right... I wear silver spandex and blue googles
[pip] That reminds me, I wonder when Eldritch is slated for release.
[Plastik] pip all indie games are getting booted off my list
[Plastik] i'm sick of them
[Z9M9Z] um... why is that Plastik?
[Z9M9Z] I've just started toying around with the idea of trying some out. What's the deal?
[Plastik] don't get me wrong, alot of the little indie games have neat concepts but I find them a bit to restraining for my tastes
[Plastik] also i've come up with a better term for them
[Plastik] novelty games
[Z9M9Z] interesting.
[pip] I thought indie games was a pretty broad umbrella.
[Plastik] I generally refer to smaller forgeish type games
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[Z9M9Z] well, it's one of their big design imperatives is to focus the game to fit the game's proposed "Aboutness"... no rules should be included that don't directly relate to what the game is "about"... or so I am lead to understand
[kasdaye] Okay, Warhammer question, why do Skaven wuv Warpstone?
[pip] Ah, like Life with Master and that ilk?
[Plastik] it powers just about everything they do
[Plastik] kasdaye thats like asking why humans love coal and gunpowder
[kasdaye] Ah
[Plastik] Z its works fine but it feels a bit too restrictive to me and it kinda limits replayability in my eyes
[Z9M9Z] i see
[Plastik] I can see myself playing these games once every now and then if that
[Xyphoid] the restricivness is totally by design, though
* Z9M9Z finds this scientifically fascinating
[Plastik] yes I am aware Xyphoid
[Z9M9Z] yes, that's what I understand about it too, Xyphoid
[Z9M9Z] I went to the last two Indie Design Panels at Dreamation and I got that impression very strongly
[Plastik] some people like being told to play this exact sort of role in this exact part of the game world
[pip] Where does stuff like SotC fit on the scale?
[Plastik] I however do not
[Plastik] SotC I actually like
[Z9M9Z] SotC
[Plastik] though I don't see myself running it often
[Z9M9Z] ??
[Z9M9Z] which one is that?
[Plastik] Spirit of the Century
[Z9M9Z] ohh
[Z9M9Z] Freds game
[Plastik] Pulp action heroes
[Z9M9Z] yup
[Z9M9Z] that sounds fun
[Z9M9Z] I tried one that was fun as heck last summer at the Indie Explosion
[Plastik] I have it, and it is the one game I can actually see myself running fairly regularly
[Z9M9Z] the Fey game...
[Z9M9Z] Fey Noir
[Plastik] DRYH, PTA, and DitV however
[Z9M9Z] I really enjoyed that.
[Plastik] those I can see myself running less and less
[Z9M9Z] fun concept, though I'd do the world a tiny bit differently in terms of setting.
[Z9M9Z] but just slightly.
[Plastik] don't get me wrong alot of indie games are massive amounts of fun, the first few times
[Z9M9Z] yeah
[Z9M9Z] I could see that.
[Plastik] but that narrow focus will leave you desiring more eventually
[Z9M9Z] how so?
[Plastik] well if your only playing say DRYH
[Plastik] your going to follow the same basic story path each time
[pip] It's the lack of breadth you dislike. DRYH?
[Plastik] Character get dragged into mad city-]face problems together-]eventually things get settled
[Plastik] the variability in characters can keep you coming back for a while
[pip] Ah, ran into a similar issue with All Flesh Must Be Eaten.
[Plastik] but its not going to keep you entertained forever
[Z9M9Z] right
[Z9M9Z] I can see that
[Plastik] DitV is the same way
[Z9M9Z] I grok that now.
[Plastik] these are great supplemental games to play every now and then to take a break from a big game
[Plastik] but to focus on indie games solely? well that just seems bleh to me
[Z9M9Z] on the other hand, I'm looking at them as tools to use to suppliment some aspects of the big game
[Z9M9Z] like the methodologies of story development might be of use in a general sense
[Z9M9Z] possibly.
[Plastik] they would probably be good for that
[Z9M9Z] that's my angle anyway.
[pip] There actually are folks who play those types of games to the exclusion of all else?
[kasdaye] Probably.
[Plastik] yes
[kasdaye] I'm with Plas on this one.
[pip] It seems like it'd get you burned out on gaming in short order.
[Z9M9Z] could happen
[Plastik] so i'm basically not going to buy anymore indie games
[Z9M9Z] that's why I'm thinking of them as tools for my homebrew, rather than as games to play in and of themselves (no offense to any Indie designer dudes here, but... )
[Plastik] i've got four big ones
[kasdaye] Also, *makes stabbing motions at the Forge*
[Plastik] thats enough for me
[Plastik] SotC, DRYH, PTA, and DitV
[kasdaye] I have DRYH and Burning Etc
[Z9M9Z] I bought a bunch but haven't even read through all of them yet
[pip] What is DRYH?
[Xyphoid] there are people who play these games a lot, but one thing to realise is that there are *heaps* of them - so even if you can only get a couple of months from a game, you can switch to the next...
[kasdaye] Don't Rest Your Head
[pip] Ah, never heard of that one.
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[kasdaye] It's a cool premise.
[Xyphoid] but I mean I'm right in your camp I think, I play longer standard-game campaigns, and occasional shortterm indies
[kasdaye] Decent execution
[Z9M9Z] yeah there's like hundreds of them
[kasdaye] Hey Levi
[pip] What's the premise?
[Plastik] DRYH has a horrible dice mechanic!
[Z9M9Z] 20 a month or something are getting added
[Plastik] HORRIBLE
[Leviathan] Evening, Kas. How does it?
[kasdaye] Says you =P Things are subjective
[kasdaye] Pretty good, yourself?
[Leviathan] Doing well. And for the record, DRYH has an amazing dice mechanic. I love it.
[Z9M9Z] Yup... one man's HORRIBLe is another man's ice cream with cherry on top.
[kasdaye] Roughly? You're an insomniac with superpowers in a town right out of someone's nightmares.
[kasdaye] Sort of.
[Plastik] pip, essentially your an insomniac with issues who gets dragged into this nightmare place called mad city to face your problems and the manifestations of your and others nightmares
[kasdaye] Mad City is hard to describe...
[Plastik] Mad City is the dark side of humanities collective unconcious, pooled into one place, it stretches across time and swallows all things forgotten
[Z9M9Z] m
[Z9M9Z] sounds ... um ... fun
[Crazy-Cabal] Are there flamingos?
* Z9M9Z shudders
[Plastik] your would think
[Crazy-Cabal] Are mirrors more fun than television?
[Plastik] you*
[Plastik] the dice mechanics...though so may like a pain
[Z9M9Z] my mirror happens to be more fun than my tv
[pip] Sounds like the premise of a surreal horror flick.
[Z9M9Z] but that's a rare case.
[Plastik] unless you have 4 different colors of D6 your in for a headache
[Crazy-Cabal] She has dyed her hair red!
[kasdaye] I do actually.
[kasdaye] This dollar store sells green, black, white and red dice for $0.25 each
[Plastik] and browsing the various colors for successes to figure out which characteristic dominated the scene is a bit annoying too
[kasdaye] So I have a few handfuls
[pip] What gamer doesn't have a dozen different colors of d6? :)
[Plastik] true
[BlackIsis] hrm. Roy Scheider died. :/
[Plastik] I just find DRYH dice mechanic slightly annoying
[Plastik] but that is just me
[Z9M9Z] oh gosh
[Z9M9Z] I think it's going to be very hard to get people excited about my dice system
[Plastik] I actually reccomend buying the game for the setting and character freedom only
[Plastik] its good for a 2-4 session game
* Plastik shrugs
[Plastik] but honestly I think I have enough indie games, I decided to not buy The Shadow of Yesterday because I figure if i'm going to run a fantasy game i'll just play one of the bigger ones I already own
[Plastik] i'm the kinda guy who loves sourcebooks and pages upon pages of material
[kasdaye] Amen
* Z9M9Z looks around for Charmed ... where's that sidekick of mine?
[kasdaye] I want to play a long running AFMBE game
[Plastik] All Flesh Must Be Eaten
[Z9M9Z] oh
[kasdaye] All Flesh Should Probably Be Eaten
[Z9M9Z] probably
[kasdaye] ]_]
[Plastik] [_[
[Z9M9Z] yeah... well ... some flesh is better than others
[kasdaye] This is true.
[Plastik] picky zombies
[Z9M9Z] mine for example is pretty lousy
[Z9M9Z] not good for eating
[Z9M9Z] probably best to leave it alone, i'd say
[Z9M9Z] oO
[Z9M9Z] Oo
[Plastik] but yeah I think PTA, SotC, DRYH, and DitV will provide me with enough pick up and play games for whenever I need to run a one shot for some friends or maybe take a break from a campaign with a bigger game
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[Plastik] i'll prolly end up playing SotC the most out of the 4
[Z9M9Z] Fred will be gratified to hear that.
[Z9M9Z] *would be
[Xyphoid] kpfs is good too, if you feel like swearing a lot
[Plastik] I like DRYH, the dice mechanic gives me a slight headache but I can work with it, but the setting and the premise is enough to make it all worthwhile
[Plastik] its a good horror-ish game to eat up 2-4 sessions
[Plastik] PTA probably has the most playability, i'd say
[Plastik] replayability*
[Plastik] and DitV i'll prolly run the least
[Charmed] Night all
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[kasdaye] I've heard of PTA and DitV but I'm wary of Indie games
[Plastik] kasdaye, they are good if you need to eat up a few sessions
[Plastik] both are good off and on games
[Plastik] since DitV focuses on Towns and PTA focuses on Episodes
[Plastik] you can take a break and come back to it if need be
[kasdaye] Ah
[kasdaye] Risus is my choice for on and off games.
[Z9M9Z] the thing about indie games that i question is the shift in the so-called Creative Agenda
[Plastik] Kasdaye, i'm not a fan of Risus or Wushu
[Z9M9Z] that's the part i struggle with... I like the traditional model for GM-Player relationship to the story
[kasdaye] I don't like Wushu
[Z9M9Z] not crazy about changing that
[Plastik] Z then don't buy PTA (Primetime Adventures)
[Z9M9Z] k
[kasdaye] Risus is basic enough for my players to pick up.
[Plastik] lol, there is a GM and Player divide, but players end up narrating alot of the scenes
[kasdaye] Anything beyond that is going to take a session to teach them
[Z9M9Z] yeah that's the part i'm not too cozy with
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[Z9M9Z] of course, I haven't tried it
[good_ol_egypt] Evenin'
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[Z9M9Z] so I really don't know how well it works
[Z9M9Z] but from what i gather, i don't think i'd like it
[Plastik] prolly not
[Plastik] its more of a collaborative effort
[Z9M9Z] crikey - it is windy (I know I keep saying that but it's like CRAZY windy outside)
[Plastik] than a "GM drives the plot"
[Z9M9Z] see... I don't like "GM drives the plot" much either
[kasdaye] I'm a fan of the traditional method.
[Z9M9Z] I like "GM sets up the backstory" and "Players drive the Plot - but not control the world"
[kasdaye] But I've stolen Exalted's motivation and intimacies
[Plastik] well PTA isn't that
[Z9M9Z] somehow the indie games i've read about seem to have crossed the line somewhere along the way to Players Control The World.
[kasdaye] As in, made them more than just things in the background
* pip is now known as afk_pip
[kasdaye] Yeah.
[Plastik] PTA encourages the players and GM (producer) to collaboratively think up the TV Show, then the conflict mechanic basically could end up with Players controlling the entire scene (including other peoples characters) or the GM could
[Plastik] so its a collaborative thing, your character will most likely not even be under your control alot of times too
[Z9M9Z] hm
[Plastik] depending on how the conflict works out (conflict is resolved with playing cards not dice btw)
[Z9M9Z] again... i repeat ... hm
[Plastik] yeah
[Z9M9Z] why don't i like this idea? maybe i'm just stubborn and stuck in the old foggie way of playing
[Z9M9Z] or maybe I've got just plain old good horse-sense about these things
[Z9M9Z] hard to tell.
* Z9M9Z is going to take a peek out the window now... to watch the trees and cows and stuff flying by
[kasdaye] The farthest I go is the collaborative world-building in Burning Empires.
[kasdaye] After that, hands off the NPCs.
* kasdaye doesn't play BE exactly as written
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[Plastik] I don't play indie games that often, but they can be useful
[Z9M9Z] See, I'm not crazy about that idea either... to my mind it's better if the Players do not collaborate on the world building aspect.
[Plastik] I don't think PTA would be your game then
[Leviathan] I'll keep my opinion on that comment to myself.
[Z9M9Z] why?
[Z9M9Z] aren't we here to discuss?
[Leviathan] Because when I spout off opinions, Plastik has aneurysms.
[Plastik] your free to disagree Leviathan, these are just my opinions
[Plastik] i'm calm tonight
[Plastik] and I do apologize for last time
[Leviathan] Aww. Thanks Plastik. ^_^ I didn't want it to be a long, drawn-out bitter thing. And sorry for my part as well.
[Plastik] lol
[Z9M9Z] so what's your view Leviathan?
[Leviathan] I think my thing with Z9's comment is, if you don't trust your players to be involved in world building or simply don't want them involved in choosing or molding the setting they play in, then I kind of feel like that makes them less than players and more like people you're "renting your RPG to and allowing to play for a short while".
[Z9M9Z] BURN HIM!! BURN HIM!!! (heheh)
[Z9M9Z] just kidding
[Z9M9Z] yeah, well I can appreciate that, but it's not that I want to control the world building just to have control - my opinion as a player and GM is that it's a better setup for the players... at least for me it is, and I think for the players I know.
[Xyphoid] yeah, I love it when my players come up with world content myself, even in non-indie games. exalted seems to be prone to it, with people designing their own kingdoms
[Z9M9Z] see, for me if my players want to design their own kingdoms, they can... but it would be through the play of the game... through their characters... not via world building per se
[Z9M9Z] I know that's different
[Z9M9Z] but I mean that the players can shape the world
[Z9M9Z] only its via their characters that they do so.
[Plastik] well its not that I don't trust my players to contribute, and I encourage them to act in the setting in various ways, but sometimes I just tend to like where I set up the backstory for them and they play it out in their own way and do their own things to reach the goals
[Plastik] where they need to worry about themselves and not the entire setting, I can set the challenges for them, and I trust them not to minmax, munchkin, or generally be cheap and unsavory players
[Z9M9Z] for me its a matter of the players not knowing the back story so that when they encounter things in the world... those things are unexpected.
[Z9M9Z] and not something they already know because they built it themselves.
[Z9M9Z] to me thats where the creative tension in the game resides
[Leviathan] I guess I'm just curious as to the reasoning behind not involving players in World Building in you guys' experience. Is it that it's too complicated or takes too much time? Are you worried that it'll effect the cohesiveness of the setting?
[Plastik] and they can trust me not to railroad, send grudge monsters after them, present them with challenges too high, or abuse the GM power
[Z9M9Z] what about what I just said Leviathan?
[Xyphoid] my view on surprising the players is, there's lots of context the characters should already know. that's the most ripe for player-generated content.
[Plastik] for me its a different kind of fun I suppose, one where everyone has equal storytelling parts, and one where there is the storyteller and then those who player the stories characters
[Plastik] both has the pros and cons
[Z9M9Z] i could see that, yeah
[Plastik] have*
[Xyphoid] i'd differentiate between worldbuilding and running the story. player-generated backstory is quite different from player-generated ingame events
[Leviathan] Your comment makes sense, but world building doesn't really need to be all-inclusive. You can still include all the secret groups and subplots you want. I guess I just don't see much harm in letting the players have at least a bit of World Building when it comes to their backgrounds and making up places, people, kingdoms, and monsters to fit into the backgrounds - which I view as a slightly...
[Leviathan] ...more contained version of World Building.
[Plastik] oh I generally ask for things they would like to see in a setting and present ideas before long campaigns/adventures
[Plastik] some of my players actually prefer to have nothing to do with setting believe it or not
[Leviathan] Ah. Ok. That makes a lot more sense then. I thought you were against any player input on the setting before the game, which struck me as a bit odd. So it's more of "shared GM role" that bothers you guys? That's understandable.
[Plastik] yeah
[Z9M9Z] pretty much
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[Z9M9Z] and it only bothers me to the degree that i think it disrupts one aspect of being a player that as a player i like ... the element of surprise
[Z9M9Z] I like the idea that i'm in someone elses' world... exploring it
[Z9M9Z] to me that creates a great deal of imaginative tension in the game
[Z9M9Z] which is a lot of what i find fun about it.
[Z9M9Z] if the GM said, Ok you can create parts of the world... i'd be like ... but that's not what I want
[Z9M9Z] I want YOU to create the world, and me to explore it.
[Z9M9Z] ... but i should add something
[Leviathan] Completely understandable there. In Exalted, for example, I'm big on World Building and letting the players fiat into existence different areas and peoples that aren't specifically mentioned in the books, but I wouldn't exactly want them getting access to all my GM notes or controlling the NPCs for me. LoL
[Z9M9Z] the worlds I love the most were very interesting because the GMs were like increadible sci-fi fantasy authors in their own way... they HAD Worlds that they really made into very original works of art
[Z9M9Z] so being in those worlds was truly a marvelous experience
[Z9M9Z] and unique
[Z9M9Z] in those cases I wouldn't want to have added anything because it would have impinged on my sense of "Being in another world" to do so.
[Z9M9Z] and that's basically my reason, ultimately.
[Leviathan] *nod*
* Damiar_the_Wolf_ has said many times before that he's into shared GMing and engineering interactins as opposed to surprises and detailed settings
[Z9M9Z] Yes, well that's what makes it all so interesting... we have different preferences
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[Z9M9Z] and so we have different games
[Leviathan] So true.
[Plastik] bingo
[Plastik] also
* Plastik shakes fist at Damiar
[Plastik] game hippy!
[Plastik] also sup
[Plastik] lol
* Z9M9Z thinks he should try to get in a few more lines of code before retiring tonight
[Z9M9Z] good discussion guys
[Z9M9Z] thanks
* Z9M9Z revs his drives and flits off into hyperspace "Clear ethers!" (lensmen reference)
[kasdaye] nn
[Plastik] so what games is everyone running/playing these days?
[Plastik] are*
[kasdaye] WFRP, Cthulhutech, Scion and Exalted
[Leviathan] So, Kas, any progress on deciding which game you'd like to run?
[kasdaye] No - _-

Session Close: Sun Feb 10 22:40:52 2008

Sunday, February 03, 2008

First appeal ... Progress Report

Well, not much came of that effort. I sent in a pretty detailed post about the Elthos RPG and got Willow's well meaning but somewhat frustrating response. She's kind of a hard core Indie Evangelist type who kindly tried to set me on the direction of redesigning the game again, as she did the last time when she was posting to the LRPGSW. I had to patiently explain again that what she thinks my game is supposed to be about isn't really what my game is about. The way it happens is that the Indie crowd have developed a "Help the Indie Game Designer See the Light" methodology that is supposed to help the would be game designer narrow their focus and make their game into what the Indie crowd believes is "the right stuff" via the answering of a series of Game Design Questions (called The Big Three, or the more extended Power 19). This means it needs to be "about" something specific, such as The Hero's Journey, and then all the rules should conform to making the game "about" that. Fair enough for an Indie game, I guess. But Elthos has 30 years of development, and was not conceived of being "about" anything in particular. It evolved over the years into what it is now, a setting that focuses on the Hero's Journey, however the rules were originally designed to leave the setting question open ended. So to now try to make the rules (even the new Settings Rules which deal with the Cosmology, including the Hero's Journey) conform to the current evolution of the setting (and even then, only a small part of it at that) doesn't really make sense for Elthos. At least not the way I play it, nor the way I envision other GMs playing it. And so there was the same friction as last time. Willow's previous comments were more brittle and corrosive the last time, and at least this time I was able to switch the subject to something more tangible, like how to find Play Testers.

That didn't really go anywhere, however, and so my thread began sinking. In a somewhat futile effort to keep my situation from bottoming out I took the outlandish risk of stating some of my opinions on other threads, on the hopes that some outlanders in the crowd might see my posts and take interest... Oh nothing I wrote was all so terrible, and some were even complementary to my peers who I find highly enthusiastic, energetic and brilliant in their own way. However, I think I already fell out of the Zen of Story Games by then.

And so I sink there. But I did, as advised by Rob and Tim and Willow, try them out. I think the main problem with my association to that scene is that we're basically at odds on the point of the "Creative Agenda" aspect of their initiative. Story Games, the forum, is *about* games that devalue and diminish the role of the Gamesmaster, whom they've identified as a kind of tyrant that crushes the spirit of their players. As phrased by the author of their site:

":::A Story Game is a type of role-playing game or gaming experience with a lesser focus on My Character and a greater focus on Our Story.:::"

Of course that is open to interpretation, but the way it reads to me, and the way this principal seems to be applied by the members generally, is that the idea of Players owning their own Characters and the GM owning the back story (the traditional mode of play) is being contested, and the Story Games (aka Indie Creative Agenda Games) are designed to buck that. However, as others have mentioned, it sounds like this imperative was born out of two things:

1) Bad experiences with Traditional RPGs (the legendary Tyrant GM).

2) A Marketing Imperative to do something Different to compete with the Traditional RPGs.

Ok fair enough, I say. Let's have some new kinds of games sure. However, Elthos is not designed with that Creative Agenda in mind. I am, in fact, somewhat neutral on the topic of Creative Agenda. I think that the Traditional GM-Player relationship can work, or it can suck. It depends on the GM and the Players. My answer to that is not to necessarily to change the foundations of the Creative Agenda, but to cultivate better Gamesmasters. The reason why is that, as identified on Story Games itself, and I agree... most Players do not want to assume the role of Story Creators (myself included) while they are playing their Characters. It breaks the sense of immersion in the story to be able to, and even forced to, add back story during the game. Well that's my take on it, but here is what the poster Chearns on Story Games actually said:

Posted By: chearns
Posted By: Clinton R. Nixon If you want to play something, why don't you rustle up your friends and play?

chearns: Identity politics. In the city I live in, I've met plenty of people who specifically don't want to play non-traditional games because they identify as traditional roleplayers. That being said, it seems like the best policy would be to round up non-roleplayers to play. And non-traditional games are, in my experience, much better at appealing to non-roleplayers than traditional games (my father thought A Penny For My Thoughts sounded cool; you'd have to have grown up with my father to understand the magnitude of that statement).

Posted By: Hituro I totally agree about the division. I've come away from here, and the Forge, and CE, enthused about some games which are different to ones I'd played before, only to find that many of the gamer friends I talked about them with were very hostile. This was a surprise, but it's held true.

...It appears to be resistance to gaming style. They don't want to be more protagonised. They don't want to share in world creation (overtly). They want a GM who presents plot and holds all the keys (Matrix style).

As it happens Story Games have an incredibly small following, and extremely tiny sales numbers, though members of the community will argue that either sales don't matter bacause it is a "labor of love", or that their sales are good (ignoring, I think anything like a comparison to any other kind of sales of pretty much anything else), or that those who are in it to make sales are not "real artistes", or something along those lines. Bottom line: their sales are tiny, even for the most successful of them which maybe sell under five thousand units per year (at $10/unit that's $50,000 a year, which on person working alone could live on, but not run an actual company). My own assessment is that if their games are really appealing by design then I would think that their sales would be higher. They argue that they can not compete with games like D&D because they do not have the marketing clout. But then again, neither did D&D when it started have any clout. It just so happened that it was a brilliant game that lots of intellectual fantasyists loved and gravitated towards.

Do Story Games hold the same appeal, generally? Well, not for me, frankly. While I am very open minded and have no axe to grind, and nothing against Story Games, they simply don't appeal to me either as a player or a Gamesmaster. As a Player I don't want to be responsible for the back story, and as a GM I don't want the Players modifying the back story. Some story games do away with the GM altogether. I'm not crazy about the implication. And some of the rhetoric regarding traditional modes of play coming out of the Indie Community has been rather offensive. And so the Indie Scene is interesting, and a lot of people involved with it have great energy and some very cool ideas, but overall, it just simply isn't really my bag.

Nevertheless, I still have an open mind about it and haven't chalked them off or anything. This is just my current impression based on what I've seen so far, and I'm perfectly aware I have seen that much yet, and also aware that I may be pleasantly surprised. Even so, I don't think the Indie crowd is going to find my viewpoint all that appealing, and I'm not willing to hide my views for the sake of fitting in. So I came out all guns blazing, and I think people there have mostly concluded that I "just don't quite fit in". That, I suppose, will have to be ok.

Who knows what will happen to Elthos? Not I! While I love my game and think it's great, it may just be the case that it is unmarketable in the current atmosphere. Is it a case of too many cooks? Or ink in the well? Or just that Elthos is beyond comprehension? Hah! Who knows? Even so, I am quite determined to continue developing it and working towards it's eventual, and hopefully successful, publication. Some day. And I do believe it will be smashing when I finally get it out to market! :)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

First appeal to the Indie Crowd at Story Games

Ok, on the advice of the guys at the Indie Explosion (Independent Game Developers) I put out a call for game testers in the Westchester area. Lets see what comes of that. It would be great to start some focused play testing, at the very least on the ODS system, but also the Mythic Template System as well (not to mention the web application).

Ok, here we go.

You can find my post here:

Dreamation 2008

Ok, well I had a bunch of schedule conflicts this weekend so I was only able to make it to Dreamation 2008 on Sunday. :(

But it was well worth it to drive to New Jersey, and as a bonus I got to sit in on the Game Design Panel for a second time. That was very interesting and much larger than the one in the summer. A number of people shot the shit about their games and got tons of hard-knuckle feedback, myself included. Overall, I think the reaction to my game was positive, and one item at least was identified as unique to my approach, which was gratifying. I got to hang out with the designers for a while before heading home. Again, I found Luke Crane, John Hicks, Rob Donoghue and the rest of the Indie crowd really high energy, enthusiastic, welcoming, funny, hard-hitting, and fun. I give the experience an A+.

I also got a really great play description about A Wicked Age, btw. We discussed various ways that I might be able to adapt the concept and system for my own way of playing my homebrew system, which the guys were rather enthusiastic about. Adaptation and reuse is a key component of the Indie Scene and encouraged rather than discouraged, which makes it all rather cool. The short version is that it would be possible to utilize components of the game in a variety of ways, and the one that struck me as interesting for my own purposes would be something in the way of using it as the basis for a Social Combat system. I'd have to add a few Wicked Age requisites, and apply the rules in certain circumstances, but it can be done.

The downside of the rules, from what I could gather from the discussion and lots of questions and answers from the guys who played it, and the designer who was hanging out, for *me* (ie - this are downsides only because of my own play biases and not because of any inherent defect in the game itself), is that the game tends to lean towards short term games rather than long term, and it does not really focus on the tactical combat element of the traditional RPG, which is something I happen to be a fan of. I'm with Rich at Overstuffed Dicebag ( who in a recent post* pointed out that having a balance between tactics and story is not a bad thing. That said, there are tons of great ideas in the A Wicked Age (the Oracle System is another thing that I think has generic usefulness, potentially), and if I can adapt the elements I like for my own use I certainly will. But first I have
to obtain a copy. The frustrating part was that I showed up without cash, and the ATM at the hotel ran out of money, and the gas station with the ATM the hotel recommended was closed. Bleh. So I couldn't buy anything. And I had a devil of a time getting home, too. But it all worked out in the end.

If you are interested in checking out the game you can look for it here:

I also thought this game showed promise:

But like I said, I couldn't make it this time until Sunday, and so I had no chance to play anything, and little time to browse around. Drat! Well, there's always the summer DexCon.


And now back to Elthos Development!

The Elthosian Magican Astro-Tarot Card (late stage draft)